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Forces such as climate change, urban population growth and digital disruption are radically transforming our industry.
Transport is facing the biggest shift our industry has seen since the advent of the combustion engine. Addressing the risks and seizing the opportunities that this change will bring will require bold thinking, new business models, and collaboration. The urgency could not be greater – and the time to act is now.
The escalating climate crisis and other man-made impacts are threatening the planet’s ecosystems and human civilisation. To achieve the goal of the
Paris Agreement and limit the increase in global temperature to a maximum of 2C and ideally no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, radical action is required from governments and business sectors across the world. As sustainability becomes crucial to business survival, customers in the transport industry are increasingly demanding sustainable transport solutions that are not reliant on fossil fuels.
We are seeing the largest wave of urban growth in history. According to the UN, cities will be home to over 70 percent of the world’s population by 2050. As cities grow bigger and more crowded, the strain on urban infrastructure increases, along with the risk of air pollution and other social and environmental impacts. The challenge calls for smart transport solutions that keep people and goods moving, and ensure the cities of the future are clean, safe, inclusive and liveable.
We are living through the fourth industrial revolution – an era of radical and disruptive technological change, in which digital trends such as the Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are transforming the way we live and work. Digitalisation is altering business models within the transport sector, as products, production processes and supply chains become more interconnected and emerging technologies drive innovation and create new risks and opportunities along the value chain.
The future of transport
These global drivers are reshaping societies and therefore the future of transport. Change is approaching at different speeds from a geography and technology perspective of course, but pace is accelerating. We’re starting to see a shift away from the driver-centric, mainly fossil-fuelled transport system we know today, towards a system that better serves the needs of people and societies that is autonomous, connected and electrified.
Automation will have a revolutionary impact on transport, improving efficiency and safety and relieving congestion issues. Autonomous trucks will profoundly change heavy goods transport in the future, transforming logistical flows and enabling goods to travel for longer distances without stopping. Autonomous public transport will encourage both large and smaller vehicles to interact to create a more individualised transport. This shift is already taking place. Many logistical centres and mines around the world are already becoming partly or entirely autonomous. We are likely to begin seeing autonomous vehicles in regular use on public roads in Europe in the near future, after the US and China.
The digitalisation trend is bringing huge growth in vehicle connectivity, with vehicles continuously producing and sharing data. Connectivity can be a key enabler for autonomous transport, allowing vehicles to communicate with each other and the road infrastructure around them, thereby making transport smarter and more efficient.
Connectivity also brings significant benefits for transport logistics, with real-time data enabling users and manufacturers to track how vehicles are being used and how they are performing with far greater precision. This allows maintenance and re-fuelling times to be optimised, maximising uptime, reducing fuel consumption and improving overall efficiency.
Electrification will be an important corner-stone in the sustainable, decarbonised transport system of the future. Electric vehicles operate cleanly and quietly, with zero particle and NOx emissions and a reduced carbon footprint (when the electricity is provided from fossil-free energy sources). Battery technology is improving rapidly, allowing vehicles to operate for longer distances between charges, and reducing charging time. Trials of electrified highways, with hybrid vehicles powered by overhead lines, are underway in several countries.
A fully electrified transport system will depend on electric infrastructure – such
as smart charging solutions – being much more widely available than they are today. The transport industry needs to take an active role in developing this infrastructure, working in partnership with infrastructure providers, electricity producers and society.
The scale of the climate challenge means that the world can’t afford to wait for the electrified transport system of the future to be viable – we need to implement existing means to radically curb emissions from transport today. Fortunately, effective solutions exist here and now, in the form of renewable fuels. Combined with energy-efficient combustion powertrains, biofuels such as sustainable biogas and biodiesel can reduce fuel consumption while achieving CO2 savings of up to 90 percent, compared with fossil diesels.
Rapidly scaling up the use of these here and now solutions is key to achieving
the carbon reductions we need to see in the short term, while also demonstrating the cost effectiveness of sustainable solutions to transport providers.